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The bridge of EPF 12, the future USNS Newport, is seen from the bow of the ship as it is docked alongside Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala.
The bridge of EPF 12, the future USNS Newport, is seen from the bow of the ship as it is docked alongside Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala. (Lawrence Specker, al.com/TNS)

MOBILE, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — Mobile-based ship builder Austal USA says it has struck a deal with an Alabama-based steel mill, SSAB, to provide metal for the first steel ships it will build for the U.S. Navy.

Austal’s Mobile shipyard has been launching aluminum ships for the Navy for years, and continues to deliver Littoral Combat Ships and Expeditionary Fast Transports. In 2020 the yard began the process of diversifying into steel construction; its steel shipbuilding facilities are expected to be operational in spring 2022 and its first project will be a ship in the Navajo class. That’s a towing, salvage and rescue ship designated the T-ATS.

According to a Monday announcement from Austal, it will source various types of steel plating from SSAB.

“SSAB not only provides us with quality steel, but also great flexibility due to its location adjacent to us here in Mobile, Ala.,” Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh said in Monday’s announcement. “The ability to work quickly and in-person with them on current and future steel requirements by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard is an asset to Austal that will support our business and economic growth in our community.”

“Austal USA is a respected and valued partner to SSAB Americas,” SSAB Americas Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Moskaluk said. “Our participation in such an important and vital project, that will strengthen both the economic and national security of our country, makes this partnership even more meaningful.”

SSAB Americas operates a mill in Axis, north of Mobile. In 2017 the company announced that it was moving its headquarters from the Chicago area to Mobile, a move supported by a package of incentives worth several million dollars. In 2018 the company announced plans to invest up to $100 million in its Axis plant, which at the time employed about 600 people.

Austal’s T-ATS contract is worth $144 million and covers two of the ships, though it’s possible Austal could go on to build more. The estimated value of the partnership with SSAB was not announced.

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